For HR managers, one of the most difficult parts of the job is balancing the need for talent development with the number-crunching expectations of CEOs, company leaders, and stakeholders. Investing in ongoing training and development is an effective way to make sure that employees feel like they are valued and that they are growing and progressing with your business.
Without education and development, it can be all too easy for workers to feel neglected, or to think they are stagnating in a role that offers limited growth opportunities. It’s when these negative feelings start to creep in that talented people jump ship to find jobs elsewhere.
So how can HR managers deal with this balancing act? By investing in talent development and putting a strong emphasis on maximizing learning transfer. Every time HR signs an employee up for a course or training session, the question from the higher-ups is bound to be “What is the ROI here?” CEOs and stakeholders want to know why they are paying for this employee’s learning opportunity and how it is going to benefit their bottom line.
Here are four key strategies you can use to guarantee learning transfer—thereby getting the stamp of approval from higher-ups.
1. Speak to employees and their managers
You can’t ensure learning transfer by instituting a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to tailor each learning experience to suit the individual learner. Otherwise, you end up paying to build up skills or knowledge that your workers already have or don’t need.
To learn more about development needs, speak to individual employees and their managers. Find out what skills employees are interested in adding to their repertoire. Get feedback from managers on how they think their team members might add even more to the organization. From there, design training opportunities to suit those wants and needs.
2. Provide time for practice, review, and reflection
A common mistake most HR managers make is to send employees to classes and training sessions and then never bringing them up again. To really absorb the material, employees need a chance to process and reflect on it after the training has completed. Otherwise, they will just forget what they learned, and learning transfer will be nonexistent.
Take the time to sit down with employees to debrief on their training sessions. If the training was a group event, leave a few hours open for team evaluation and practice sessions. The time investment is small in the grand scheme of things, but the potential boost for learning transfer is huge.
3. Used spaced repetition
The practice of “spaced repetition” or “interval repetition” is a classic device in education. It is essential for guaranteeing information retention and learning transfer in professional development.
After you’ve had your big debriefing session with employees to review and reflect on information learned, figure out a way to keep your workers thinking about their new knowledge or skills. You can incorporate this repetition into emails, meetings, one-on-one sessions, or even actual tests and assessments.
Ultimately, the delivery module matters less than keeping that information relevant for longer. This increased relevancy leads to recall, mastery, and application, which delivers the sort of learning transfer that executives desire.
4. Get managers involved
We’ve already talked about how consulting managers before you plan training and development opportunities can help give you some insight on the skills and knowledge that are most needed in your organization. The managers are also essential to making sure that learning transfer actually happens.
Review, reflection, and other spaced repetition strategies can only do so much to drive information retention. What is really going to get your workers to start using new skills and knowledge in the workplace is someone demanding that they do so. Engaging the managers in the process of talent development, then, is a must.
When you send an employee off to a training session, enlist the manager to help coach the worker on his or her new skills. They can give employees tasks that pertain to their new skills and knowledge, provide evaluation and feedback on performance, and help encourage mastery. The manager can serve as the role model who makes sure that new skills are being applied on a regular basis and delivering value to your business.
Learning transfer is hard to achieve and sometimes even more difficult to prove. Start by implementing the four strategies above in your HR department. You will be able to get more out of employee development, keep your workers feeling engaged and valued, and appease CEOs and stakeholders in their focus on the bottom line.